Scott Fosdick uses an old hippie phrase, “It’s been a trip,” to sum up his last 15 years as a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Fosdick arrived at San José State way back in 2005, driving all the way from Missouri. This winter, he retires.
“The primary impulse was just to give people a place to go, have some fellowship and fun, and not feel all alone. I’ve always liked Thanksgiving. It’s always been my favorite holiday.”
Fosdick says he will remember all the relationships and the times that people got something of value above and beyond.
Having grown up in the Midwest, Fosdick had never lived in a place so dry as San José was in August 2005. “I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have been surprised if two moons had risen because I felt like I was on some alien planet,” he says as the sun filtered through his window and shone bright on his face.
Fosdick often wondered “what it’s like for a lot of students when they come here first from a faraway land.” He never liked the idea of students feeling stranded and homesick during his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.
Time and again, when they have been able to, Fosdick and his wife, Kathy Richmond, who works in University Advancement, opened their doors to international and domestic students who might be a long way from home to join them for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at their home. Last fall, when they extended a hearty welcome to our Media and Social Issues class for an evening of food and humor, we were delighted.
Decked out in a long black coat, I landed at his doorstep on Thanksgiving night 2019 holding a pecan pie (not knowing Fosdick loves pecans). Three of my classmates had already arrived. An oblong dinner table was angled in the warmly hued living room with neatly arranged cutlery and auburn, floral napkins. The scent of pumpkin pie filled the room.
As we relished the traditional American fare our conversations flowed from travel and culture, to everyday struggles, aspirations, and dreams. That evening, Fosdick and Richmond embraced us all through their warm and lovely hospitality. We felt at home.
“The primary impulse was just to give people a place to go, have some fellowship and fun, and not feel all alone,” says Fosdick. “I’ve always liked Thanksgiving. It’s always been my favorite holiday.”
For Fosdick—who acknowledges the complex history of Thanksgiving—it is a time to feel gratitude for all that the earth offers, be thankful to Providence and to honor the Native Americans’ around the autumn harvest.
The simplicity and the warmth of Thanksgiving emanating from the simple gesture of sharing food, not fancy, is what endears the day to Fosdick. “There’s no commercialism. It doesn’t have that sort of class breakdown and people don’t give gifts for Thanksgiving.” Fosdick says. “I think it’s a nice ideal to strive for.”
For the last 15 years, San José State has embodied that ideal for Fosdick. “The university is so diverse,” he says.
Every Monday evening through fall ’19, a motley group of graduate students would roll into DBH 213 to find themselves amid diverse voices. Fosdick would walk in, exchange pleasantries, set up his computer, and take different seating positions every week just so students don’t look in one direction. In essence, the professor encouraged a freewheeling exchange of ideas that is beyond the obvious.
Fosdick’s Media and Social Issues classes gave international Mass Communications graduate students in the fall of 2019 their first taste of the American education system. His classes became a gateway to an expanded worldview. Through the many readings and writings that came with his classes, Fosdick was constantly challenging people to think, critique and question. His gentle aura and open-minded approach cut across social, political and cultural barriers.
Before coming into academia, Fosdick worked as a theater critic in newspapers for ten years. His love for the theater drove him to pursue doctoral studies in it. Fosdick loves the medium. Having done some character acting, he says, “Creating a believable character and projecting to the back row was always a challenge.”
In the role of a professor and mentor in real life, Fosdick rocked the stage. His MCOM 210 students now want an encore.
Neelanjana Gautam, ’21 MS Mass Communications, took Scott Fosdick’s MCOM 210 and attended the Thanksgiving dinner at his home on November 28, 2019. Neelanjana will always be thankful for the memories from that day.